[Cyborg] dolphin language

Robert Picone rpicone at gmail.com
Thu Dec 15 11:32:11 UTC 2011

While I'd definitely say that they seem to be overstating their results,
what they don't seem to be saying is that the dolphins produce direct
mimicry of the sounds they perceive.  That would probably not further their
thesis of language, and would indeed  probably be rather detectable (though
it probably wouldn't result in the same sound twice on microphone, both
because echolocation is highly dependent on the dolphin's frame of
reference, and because some deal of fidelity would likely be lost in the
process, but we don't quite know from where)

Anyway, I think that what they're working off of here is the speed with
which the dolphins associated the playbacks to the real objects when the
system was unfamiliar to them.  Animals can be trained to identify objects
from videos of the object, but simply showing an animal with no experience
with video a video seems unlikely to result in identification of the
object.  So, either dolphins have some innate sense of sonic-visual
language, or dolphins are exceptionally good at figuring out games when
promised rewards...  The latter is true, but they don't seem to be
distracted by that.  A better test that seems more in line with other
standards for studying animal communication might be to playback the
generated data to one dolphin, then determine if that dolphin can direct a
second dolphin to choose the correct object without seeing it.

Anyway, if dolphins do have such language, there is no particular reason it
should be easily distinguishable for us.  We don't even really know what
features they would prioritize in communicating such information, let alone
how it would be encoded into the sounds available to them.  Would
communicating the difference in resonance/scattering from rubber to steel
be of importance?  How much shape detail is necessary?  A couple
concave/convex regions?  edges? all the detail they can perceive in a long
series of echolocative bursts?  Is perspective of the original image
preserved in repetition?  Is overall distance?  The possibility that
perspective is not maintained between representations of the same object
alone account for millions of ways to "describe" a given object in such a
language, so a complete inability to detect any sort of language-like order
would be very much understandable.

On Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 11:40 PM, Mitch Altman <maltman23 at hotmail.com>wrote:

>  If Dolphins can communicate shapes that they haven't actually
> experienced, but are shapes from their imagination, that implies that
> they are capable of either design, or art, or both.  That's way cool.
> Mitch.
> ------------------------
> > Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2011 23:23:48 -0500
> > From: mrericboyd at yahoo.com
> > To: cyborg at lists.noisebridge.net
> > Subject: [Cyborg] dolphin language
> >
> > http://speakdolphin.com/ResearchItems.cfm?ID=20
> >
> > I'm having a little difficulty understanding the article, but my gist is
> > this:
> >
> > Dolphins have a visual language, where they "talk shapes" with each
> > other, by manually reproducing the sounds that they would hear if they
> > did their ecolocation against an object. So basically, not only can
> > they make the outgoing ultra-sonic click-train, they can *also* make the
> > incoming echo sounds, and thus "repeat" what they "heard" to each
> > other. The article even speculates that they can generate the sounds
> > for objects they haven't actually encountered, but only imagined - if
> > so, you can imagine that would be super powerful!
> >
> > Translating such a powerful visual language into English is left as an
> > exercise for the reader :-)
> >
> > The scientists claim to use a CymaScope, anyone seen one of these things?
> >
> > http://www.cymascope.com/cymascope.html
> >
> > I'm super intrigued by these results, but I have to say, the article
> > doesn't seem to actually say it the way I said it. The results all talk
> > about just replying the reflected sounds from real objects, and having
> > the dolphins recognize them - this is not surprising, it would be like
> > us seeing a video of an object, and then later pointing out the object:
> > not necessary indicative of *language*, merely of perception and
> > memory. You could train most any mammal to do it, fairly easily. And
> > when the article later talks about language, there is a suspicious lack
> > of experimental details. Do the dolphins actually generate the much
> > more complicated reflected sound waves, and not just the outgoing
> > clicks? That would be simple to verify. But if they do generate such
> > complicated sounds, you'd think this would have been discovered and
> > understood long ago, since it would seem really obvious if dolphins
> > repeated sounds they just heard back to other members of their tribe...
> > you'd literally hear the same thing twice on a microphone, but only once
> > preceded by the click train.
> >
> > Or maybe that's one of those things that is only obvious in hind-site?
> >
> > Anyway, fascinating, and I still want to build my ultra-sonic
> > audification echo-location rig :-)
> >
> > Eric
> >
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